A Role For Hand Woven Textile From Africa

When I fell in love with textiles many years ago it was especially with cotton cloth in its varieties from simple to more complex textures and configurations. I loved the softness of the cotton blankets and jerseys, the smooth feel of Ankara from local fabric manufactures and the more tactile textures of locally hand-woven cloths. Cotton and other natural fibers have played an important role in the textile industry in Africa for centuries.


The existence of woven textile dates back over 1500 years ago in Kissi, Burkinafaso according to a study by Sonja Magnavita in 2008 (Magnavita, 2008). Even though the study suggests that this woven cloth is likely to have been the product of trade from the Middle East, indigenous fabrics have played an important role in the rich history within swathes of cultures across the continent.

Industry Facts

     Textiles play a very important role in all our lives. They contribute 1.3 trillion USD to the global economy employing hundreds of millions of people and cotton production makes up almost 7% of those employed (Strijbos, 2016). In Africa, the apparel and footwear market is estimated to be worth 31 billion USD and estimated to grow at CAGR of approximately 5% between 2019 and 2024 (Foundation, August 2021).

Looming The Way To The Future

Today, as the textile industry in Africa builds significance in economies across the continent and the world, indigenous woven textiles, a cultural staple, can play a significant role. Hand loomed from vertical and horizontal looms with a variety of locally grown thread fibers including cotton, silk and wool, these cloths offer exquisite options for clients as well as opportunities for artisans to build ethical relationships and value chains across the region and the world. Innovative and sustainable business models including circular economies, are well suited for this market. The exquisite hand-loomed cloths, unique to the plethora of cultures in various African countries, are woven using ancient techniques passed down through generations of artisan weavers and provide direct economic benefits for families and communities across African regions.

Ayo Uko